Google Partially Clarifies Location History Data Tracking

Following recent reports that called out the search giant for its "dishonest" location data tracking practices, Google has updated its support pages to clarify how its 'Location History' feature settings work. Prior to the update, the associated web page had simply informed users that turning off Location History would stop storing places they go. It also indicated that doing so would turn the feature off for every connected device. Now, the page not only explains what Location History data is used for but also that there are other services which may still collect and store geolocation data. In particular, it points to that data being used for Google Location Services and its Find My Device application. The latter of those is in place to help users find or wipe their smartphone or tablet if it becomes lost. Google Search and Maps are also noted to still store data after turning Location History off.

Google's previous message wasn't necessarily a lie but also failed to clarify exactly what Location History is and does. Its statement about ceasing to store the data was also somewhat misleading since turning the feature off did not mean that other Google services couldn't or wouldn't still track a user's location. The new update to the Location History support page already does a fairly good job of explaining that particular subset of the company's location tracking process. However, it also now directly links over to guides for turning off location tracking from and in other applications. That follows an explanation that Location services can be turned off more thoroughly on a device-by-device basis.

With that said, another major sticking point for those opposed to Google's wording is that the location data can be completely shut off but the company still makes no mention of it on the support page. In short, stopping the search giant from tacking data entirely requires users to visit the web version of a page titled "Web & App Activity," in the overall account settings. Several Google services and some mobile apps, including the A.I.-driven Google Assistant, do need the setting turned on to function properly. However, the company could just as easily point that out alongside a link directing users to that site and Google's detractors aren't likely to let the matter drop until that's the case.

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